Down the Lane: Those were the good old days

It is so much fun for me to get with people who grew up around the same time as I did and reminisce about how life was “back then.”

I do not know why, but this past month I have had the opportunity to do so a little bit more than usual. 

In one conversation with my neighbor, we brought up a subject that got us reminiscing.

When you are a child and going through certain things, you often think yours is the only family who does things the way it does.

As I have grown older, I realized how wrong I was.

One topic was how our families doctored us.

For example, we did not go to the doctor unless we had been severely cut, were extremely ill or the old time home remedies were not curing you. It had to be something major to warrant the trip to the doctor.

We laughed as we thought of looking like an Indian with war paint from being painted red with mercurochrome or iodine painted on us for our scrapes and cuts.

We agreed we never see mercurochrome on the shelves of stores now. It may still be in some stores but not like it used to be because “back then,” you could not miss it.

It did not take me or my siblings long to fear alcohol being poured on our cuts. Many times when I saw my mom bring out the alcohol bottle I started crying, “No, Mommy, no!”

She thought alcohol killed every germ and could cure your ailments.

My daddy’s cure for everything was liniment. It not only cured the animals, but gargling with liniment water could cure a sore throat. It also was his cure for many other aches and pains.

Peroxide was gargled full strength for sore throats also. This was used if we were out of liniment, I’m sure.

Vicks salve was used by a lot of families for severe coughs, either rubbed on the chest or left on the chest with a rag tied around the neck.

Some families put salve on the feet and wrapped them up so you could sleep without coughing at night. This still works today in many homes. 

If there was a deep wound from a cut, no pre-cut gauze pads were found in my home. It was an old ripped T-shirt wrapped around the wound and tied with a rag.

We did have tape most of the time, but when we were out of tape, a thin strip of rag was tied around the wound.

I remember one of my brothers sliced his foot open with an axe. While he was chopping wood, he missed the wood but his foot got the brunt of the axe swing.

I still remember my mom doctoring his foot up the way I just described.

Money was hardly ever spent on bandages at my house. For one thing, a box would probably have been used up in a week with us five kids.

One thing I remember in my home was a yellow salve my mom bought from a Watkins door-to-door salesman. Somehow, he always found us down the lane.

My mother was a definite Watkins fan. She not only bought the salve, but I remember some delicious butterscotch and pumpkin pies he would baked from the powdered mixes they sold. They were easier than doing the pies from scratch and were so good.

Watkins products were good products and I was told they are still around.

Then we got to talking about going to school and our clothes. We spoke of how happy we were to get hand me downs so we would have something different to wear to school.

At one time, my sister and I could put all our school clothes on one pole hung in our room. I guess that is why I feel the need to have so many clothes now.

When an outfit wore out, it was thrown into a rag bag to be used for dusting, cleaning or other uses.

A zipper was saved, buttons were cut off clothes and sometimes thread from certain hems was saved.

Often, these rags were used in quilt making. I remember my mom even made a blue jean quilt one year for my brother’s bed.

We discussed how there was almost always a button box or button jar in every home back then. If a button was lost, I remember my mom going through her button tin and picking out a button that matched and sewing it on.

Some other ladies talked about how our school clothes were always hung up and our work clothes put on when we came in from school.

We always wore our clothes at least twice before they were to be put in the laundry. Some said it was three times.

We all talked about our chores and we all felt that is what is wrong with our young people today: They are not taught to work at home.

I can remember the generation before me doing the same thing when they gathered. The things we took for granted, like electricity, they had done without.

I remember them talking about getting their first refrigerators and gas stoves. Most of them had cooked only on wood stoves for their meals most of their lives.

Even though we always had a gas cooking stove, we also had a wood cook stove my mother used a lot when she cooked for Christmas dinners. I guess she had it taken out when I was around 10 years old because she wanted to have a formal dining room.

I remember the older ladies speaking of going in horse-drawn carriages and wagons to visit family members or going to town and heating bricks to help keep them warm on long trips into town. I remember getting shivers thinking how cold they had to have been when they arrived somewhere.

They also said heated bricks were put in their beds to keep their feet warm at night. I wondered why my parents never thought of this for my feet.

So many of them speaking about their dresses made out of flour sacks or feed bags. They told me the feed bags were usually flowered with different colors like pink, blue or yellow and made really pretty dresses.

I have a picture of me in a dress made out of a feed sack bag.

They also spoke about keeping their food cold by hanging it down in a well or in an ice house.

I do still remember in the summer how my Daddy would go buy block ice to make ice cream and cool watermelon from an ice house near Pilot View.

Our talks turned to food and it seems the main meal for families during the week was soup beans, potatoes and corn bread during the winter. In the summer, green beans took the place of soup beans.

During the summer, the garden food was always canned and put up for long winter days.

I found out many families did like my family, and on the weekend, we had hot dogs and chips on Friday nights and hamburgers on Saturday nights.

Sunday after church, we had the big meal for the week. For my family, it meant a roast, city ham, fried chicken or chicken and dumplings.

When a hog or cow was killed, we ate good until it was eaten up then we were back to the regular meal time fare of soup beans, potatoes and corn bread.

Church was never missed and that meant Sunday morning and Sunday night attendance. Church was, for most kids, the only social life they had outside of school.

At my home we were allowed to go home with someone if invited or have someone at our home if we wanted.

It has made me wonder what our children’s and grandchildrens’ generations will talk about with one another when they are our age.

I just hope they look back with good memories.

I wonder about the times in your life you thought could have been better “back then.”

How many wish you could go back just one more time to be with your families?

Maybe you will realize now, how good you really had it “back then.”

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in her church, First United Methodist Church, and her homemakers group, Towne and Country Homemakers.